In a recent announcement, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) stated that it is considering making thousands of federally incarcerated inmates eligible for presidential clemency grants. The tentative action would involve at least six conditions that must be satisfied in order for an inmate to receive a clemency grant from the President.
First, inmates who have verified ties to criminal gangs, drug cartels, and organized crime groups would not be eligible. The proposal is designed to increase the opportunity for early release for non-violent inmates who received long-term sentences pursuant to mandatory minimum sentencing laws in effect at the time of their convictions. Roughly 13 percent of the 216,000 inmates in federal penitentiaries have served over 10 years, but they are not eligible to qualify for consideration, based primarily on the nature of their criminal records.
Other eligibility requirements include:
- Demonstrated good conduct while incarcerated;
- A consideration of whether the inmate would receive a much lower sentence under today’s sentencing laws; and
- Whether the inmate’s record before incarceration and while incarcerated is free of violent behavior.
According to Deputy Attorney General James Cole, most of the eligible applicants would consist of drug offenders and other categories of offenders who would qualify for clemency if they meet the new requirements. This standard would even encompass inmates referred to as “career criminals.”
Regarding the vast number of clemencies that could be granted if the proposal is made final, the Deputy Attorney General stated that many of the inmates received disproportionately higher sentences at the time of their convictions as a result of the sentencing laws that were in effect then.
The United States Sentencing Commission has recently voted in favor of reducing the sentencing guidelines that apply to most federal drug convictions. According to the Commission, nearly three-quarters of defendants facing drug trafficking charges satisfy the elements of the crime. If current sentences are reduced, these defendants would face a 17 percent drop in the average sentence imposed–51 months instead of the current 62 months.
Inmates who believe they may be eligible for clemency under the proposed standard should be aware that the application process is relatively simple and straightforward, but clemency can be denied if it is not filled out correctly. For many inmates, having a skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyer assist them with the process can make the difference between having the application denied or postponed and having the application granted.
Sentencing in general can be a very confusing and complex process for defendants, and it isn’t always easy to understand. At The Hoffman Firm, our criminal defense lawyers guide our clients through each step of the process and ensure that their rights are asserted aggressively along the way. Whether you need immediate legal representation regarding pending charges, or you believe that you may be eligible for the DOJ’s proposed clemency program, we are here to help. We offer a free, confidential, and no-obligation consultation to help you learn the scope of your rights. Call us now at (305) 249-0090 or contact us online to set up your appointment.